In an exciting step in aviation development, December 2017 saw the first phase of flight trials completed for the Magma drone.

The small-scale unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is attracting attention because unlike with normal aircraft, its designers are trying to remove the need for flaps to control direction and speed. We take a look at this unique flight control technology.

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(BAE Systems) 

What is the Magma?

Created by BAE Systems and the University of Manchester, the Magma aircraft uses two innovative pieces of flight technology.

Normally aircrafts are controlled through flaps on the wings which move during flight, but these extra movable components make the plane more bulky and complex.

However, Magma uses an air-blown system to control the aircraft in two new technologies – wing circulation control and fluidic thrust vectoring.

Control is provided by the wing circulation control as bleed air from the engine is blown at supersonic speeds through very narrow slots in the trailing edge of the wing.

Fluidic thrust vectoring helps control the direction of the aircraft. Look at the diagram below to find out how the air is used.

fluid vector

(BAE Systems)

Why is this technology useful?

Making the plane more streamlined could increase stealth for future military aircraft. It also makes the plane lighter and reduces maintenance costs.

The ultimate aim of the project would be create aircraft without any more control surfaces or fins. BAE Systems says further flight trials are planned.

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